Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Climate-and-energy bill would discourage but not ban EPA regulation of hydraulic fracturing

The bipartisan climate-and-energy bill being written in the Senate reportedly includes language to discourage the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the oil-and-gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing, Mike Soraghan of Environment & Energy Daily reports. A "discussion draft" from three oil-and-gas companies obtained by E&E reveals they are lobbying Congress to include language in a climate bill that would leave "fracking" regulation up to the states.

Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council told Soraghan that the federal government needs to provide "a minimal regulatory floor" for states because "Communities across the country have completely lost trust in state regulators to protect their drinking water." However, the language in the proposal regarding fracking would be non-binding, "'sense of the Senate' language with no real legal impact," Soraghan writes. (Read more, subscription required) UPDATE: Soraghan notes in a follow-up report, "But if the House were to pass legislation ordering federal regulation of fracturing, it could serve as a counterweight in conference negotiations."

Meanwhile, environmental groups have grown weary of vote-attracting compromises in the bill, to be sponsored by Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. One deal would open U.S. coastlines to expanded drilling, Darren Samuelsohn of Greenwire reports for The New York Times. "We're not sure what we're getting now," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., told Samuelsohn. The new Senate bill isn't expected to be unveiled for another month. On Friday, 22 Democratic senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid calling for floor action on a climate bill this year, Samuelsohn reports for E&E.

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